14 Quotes for Inspirational Leadership

Image copyright © Dan Nielsen

Image copyright © Dan Nielsen

In my newly released book Presidential Leadership: Learning from United States Presidential Libraries & Museums, I share inspiring stories that highlight the leadership strengths of some of the world’s most influential leaders – former U.S. Presidents.

Today I want to share some characteristics of inspirational leaders along with a selection of quotes that appear in the book and are relevant to everyone who desires to be an inspirational leader:


Inspirational leaders don’t just inspire with eloquent words and big promises—they take action.


“Words without actions are the assassins of idealism.”

– Herbert Hoover

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”

– John F. Kennedy

“Promising too much can be as cruel as caring too little.”

 – Bill Clinton

Inspirational leaders lead with confidence and have the courage to take risks.


“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.”

– Franklin Roosevelt

“The ultimate test of leadership is not the polls you take, but the risks you take… the greatest defeat of all would be to live without courage, for that would hardly be living at all.”

 – Gerald Ford

Inspirational leaders always see opportunity in the midst of trials.


“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

 – Harry Truman

Inspirational leaders inspire enthusiasm, not just obedience.


“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

 – Dwight Eisenhower

Inspirational leaders don’t do everything for those whom they lead, but they teach and equip them to find opportunity and success.


“We must always remember that America is a great nation today not because of what government did for people but because of what people did for themselves and for one another.”

– Richard Nixon 

“We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.”

– Lyndon B. Johnson

Inspirational leaders use their position and influence to serve others.


“Use power to help people. For we are given power not to advance our own purposes nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power and it is to serve people.”

– George H. W. Bush


“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”

– Ronald Reagan

Inspirational leaders listen to both sides and pursue positive compromise.


“Leadership to me means duty… it means character, and it means listening.”

– George W. Bush


“Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.”

– Jimmy Carter

Inspirational leaders don’t require praise, but their leadership is worthy of it.


“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”

– Abraham Lincoln


What quote do you find most powerful and inspiring? Share in the comments below!

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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“Dan Nielsen is a gifted facilitator and inspiring presenter. He truly has a passion for leadership and for getting to the heart of the matter. He knows what it takes to motivate both individuals and groups and genuinely leads by the example he sets.”

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